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under5s - hanukkah
The information, activities, recipes and stories on this page have been reproduced from the OpenSezMe book Winter by Shirley West. This book is full of excellent resources for pre-school and is one of a set of four covering each of the seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. These books are available from the Education and Play.co.uk and cost £11.99 per book inclusive of P&P. We were so impressed we bought a complete set !

Hanukkah, the Jewish Feast of lights, begins on the evening of the 25th day of the Hebrew month called Kislev. This usually corresponds to the month of December. This festive occasion usually lasts for about eight days, and each one is filled with songs, games, food, and the lighting of the Hanukkah candles.

Hanukkah reminds people of the miracle which took place in Israel over 2,000 years ago.


A story to read

King Antiochus of Syria was not a Jew, and he was very cruel and unkind to the Jewish people. He wanted the Jews to worship the Greek god Zeus, and wouldn't let them worship their own god at their temple in Jerusalem.

This made the Jews very angry, and they decided to fight the Syrian King. Even though they were greatly outnumbered they won their battle.

When they returned to their temple, they found that the army had made a terrible mess. So they had to clean it in order to make it holy once again.

They did this by re-lighting the temple's candle called a Menorah. This candle was really meant to burn all the time. They could only find one jar of oil to light the flame, and this they thought would only last for one day. But instead it kept the lamp burning for eight days and nights. And so Hanukkah celebrates this miracle.


The candle-lighting ceremony takes place in the evening usually before the evening meal. This meal always includes fried foods, and this often means pancakes or Potato Latkes. The oil used to fry these traditional pancakes is a reference to the cleaning and re-dedication of the temple in Jerusalem.

On the first night, Jewish families gather around the Menorah, or eight-branched candlestick , while one candle is lit. On the second night, two candles are kindles, and so on, until the eighth night. At this time two blessings are recited, and then the lighted Menorah is placed in a window so that everyone can see it and rejoice together.

For children, the highlight of the evening comes when they receive Hanukkah gelt, or presents of money, and gather around the in a circle to play with a dreidel.



A dreidel is a tiny spinning top with a different Hebrew letter printed on each of its four sides. Each letter has a different value in nuts or money.


Each child starts with the same number of nuts (or counters) and there is a pool of nuts in the centre. The children take turns to spin the top and take the value of the letter. The one with the most nuts or money at the end of the game, wins.

Nun                  Nothing happens 

Gimel               Take the nuts in the pool

Hay                  Take half the nuts in the pool

Shin                 Put one nut into the pool




50g (2oz) self-raising flour or fine matzomeal
6 medium sized potatoes
1 teaspoon salt, pepper
2 eggs
oil for deep frying 


1. Peel and finely grate the potatoes into a bowl of cold water to stop them going black. Leave for five minutes then strain through a muslin bag or squeeze as much liquid out as possible.

2. Mix all the ingredients to a thick batter. Heat the oil and drop in tablespoons of the mixture to make pancakes of about 8cm (3") across. Fry on both sides until nicely brown.


Replace potato with grated carrot,onion or courgettes. If you are using courgettes add another two teaspoons of flour or fine matzomeal.



450g (1lb) cooking apples
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
apple juice


1. Peel, core and slice the apples and put in the saucepan with all the other ingredients and cover with a lid.

2. Place on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve with Latkes.

All Text and Illustrations copyright Shirley West & Open Sez Me Publications
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under5s - hanukkah
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